Canada and the United States are two separate countries. How do I know? We can’t even call our cars the same things even when the names are no different. Camaro? Miata? Solara? Nissan? Denali? What’s the vowel in there?

It’s an [æ] vs. [ɑː] distinction: Americans love to say pahsta instead of pæsta, and Canadians the converse. (Celica is another case, but there it’s a matter of stress: Sellica in American and Seleeca in Canadian.)

150 or 200 years ago, I interviewed for a job at a graphic-design/marketing agency. For some godawful reason, it was called Karo. Obviously in Canadian that’s pronounced like kerro. They insisted on a poncy British or lower-class American pronunciation, Kaaaro. The receptionist struggled all day to pronounce it that way.

They didn’t believe me when I told them there was even a discrepancy and it was bound to hurt their business, so I had the CEO read a few sample sentences out loud. Here’s an updated list.

  1. The highlight of any Halloween is surely raking in a huge haul of Kraft caramel squares.
  2. You can make your own pasta sauce at home, but it’s expensive.
  3. Toronto would not have become some kind of nirvana if we’d won the Olympic bid.
  4. Twenty years ago, who would have envisioned Steve Martin acting in a drama instead of a comedy?
  5. The Bloor Viaduct offers quite the panorama of the Don Valley.
  6. I whittled down my choices to a Mazda 626 or a Nissan Maxima. Of course, my brother says I should just buy a Camaro.
  7. My sister’s name is Sandra, but she goes by Sandy.
  8. I don’t want to sound like a Cassandra here, but global warming could just take out Tonga completely.
  9. Two Vancouver mathematicians came up with a new algorithm for calculating π.
  10. Coconuts and avocados are almost the only fruits containing saturated fats.
  11. It was fun-o-rama at Caribana this year – now 15 years shooting-free!
  12. This isn’t an office. It’s more like an alcove.
  13. The White Cliffs of Dover look more like the Talcum Cliffs of Dover to me
  14. I remember the halcyon days when you could have steak for lunch and nobody batted an eye.
  15. The gala opening of the film festival is something I always manage to miss.
  16. Put that out on the balcony to dry.
  17. The hijacker pulled out a knife while the aircraft was airborne over Colorado. But unbeknownst to him, the first officer was a black belt in karate. The plane later landed in Nevada.
  18. You try to order a custom burrito there and they get all Soup Nazi on your ass.
  19. I asked for a burrito, not a taco.
  20. My mom had a lava lamp – and she wasn’t even ironic.
  21. Ben Kingsley playing Gandhi is like Keanu Reeves playing Buddha.
  22. The line between bravado and swaggering is razor-thin.
  23. I suppose I could have worked on my paper or something, but I had my eyes glued to the falcon-nest Webcam.
  24. Java, whether as coffee or programming language, is a bitter elixir to swallow.
  25. George Lucas is about the only person on earth who ever actually wanted to see Jabba the Hutt in another movie.

Others? Casablanca, balaclava, baklava, Jan Sibelius, Farrakhan, naan (overregularization error for Canadians – it’s never [næn]), falcon, Galloway, divan.

I promise you most Canadian speakers use [æ] in the relevant word in that list, while most Americans use [ɑː]. (Americans will, additionally, know the word Karo from a brand of corn syrup.)

What happened to Karo? I guess they went tits-up in Toronto, but they still have offices in Calgary and Vancouver. They completely shafted Paul Arthur while he was alive, incidentally, and would have shafted me, too. Karo wanted to start up a company-naming practice, but, exhibiting typical incompetence, couldn’t come up with a name for it. I had one in 30 seconds: Nominé. And they still didn’t hire me.

Some other time, ask me about Gottschalk “+” Ash. What are the vowels there, and how is a metrosexual involved?

The foregoing posting appeared on Joe Clark’s personal Weblog on 2009.03.31 13:55. This presentation was designed for printing and omits components that make sense only onscreen. (If you are seeing this on a screen, then the page stylesheet was not loaded or not loaded properly.) The permanent link is:

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None. I quit.

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